The fourth hit really says "Do We Need Theory to Study Disease?"
Upfront Disclaimer: This post is probably unforgivably biased by the current reading.
When I first thought to offer this up as a discussion topic, I convinced myself that it’s a potentially esoteric-to-the-point-of-absurd topic, as is arguably the case with most of academia.
Then I reconsidered: Most people do not read scholarly, peer-reviewed publications. I, for one, do not read them regularly, and when I do my reading has nothing to do with mental illness. That being said, most people read or watch the popular news, and every time another study saying something anyone might find interesting is published in an academic journal, some popular news outlet does a little piece on it.
A few days ago, forum member Meredith pointed me toward this such news piece. If you don’t feel like reading it, I’ll summarize by saying its title is “BD II patients exhibit distinct cognitive deficits.” I read the article and had about a thousand unanswered questions, so I accessed the actual study and read that. Perhaps needless to say, the summary provided by the more accessible article was just a tad overly generalizing. And that title is just silly.
This post is not about the specifics of this one piece, but about MI-related research more generally. My obsessive nature leads me to read all the citations in a stupid, inconsequential article found on the Internet. And when that means I end up reading mental-illness studies, I generally get pissed. Who are these people? What are these tests? Who invented (and who vetted) these tests? Who’s measuring that they, in fact, measure what they say they’re measuring? How generalizable are they claiming their findings are? What’s the readership of this journal? Whose clinical practice is about to be affected by this nonsense, and how many patients do they have? What sources are these writers citing and how old is that research? … And down the obsessive rabbit hole I go.
I have a tenuous, at best, relationship with mental illness research, and I’ve identified two reasons for this. First, I think the research questions are almost always the wrong questions and the research methods are almost always the wrong ways to answer them. Granted, I’m not a psychological researcher, so it’s likely that I don’t know what I’m talking about. Still, “Are BD II patients cognitively impaired?” seems like a less than productive question. Couldn’t we focus research resources on how to raise the cognitive functioning of those who think they need it? Isn’t whether someone “feels impaired” all we really need to gauge? Most research questions of this sort lead to some variation of “So, Johnny, now that we’ve diagnosed you as mentally ill, we’re going to have to diagnose you as stupid. If you don’t feel stupid now, don’t worry – You will.” (And by now we all know how much I dislike methods that use “objective” metrics for completely subjective variables. But that’s just me.)
The other reason for my distaste lies really in the popular (“accessible”) news media that cover these publications. The title of the example article is a definitive statement not truly concluded in the study being covered. And the studies asking unproductive questions (with maybe inappropriate methods) are each being reported on by a culture that promotes a terrible stigma. Ugh.
So, Questions: Am I alone in this frustration? Even if all you know about the academic research going on is what’s reported by news outlets, how do you feel about it? Maybe more importantly, do you feel as though the bulk of research being done is for the benefit of the MI community? Because I don’t.